Label news: Decca opens new front in gender wars

Label news: Decca opens new front in gender wars


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2022

Decca has just signed its first male soprano.

You read that right.  A soprano used to be a person born female. No longer,

Press release:

Decca Classics is thrilled to announce the signing of the sensational Venezuelan male soprano Samuel Mariño. Mariño will release his new album Sopranista (a term for male soprano) on 27 May. On the album, Mariño performs castrato, soprano and ‘trouser role’ arias from the 18th century. Arias by Gluck and Mozart, more commonly performed by female voices in the centuries since castration was banned, are recorded by a male soprano voice for the first time ever. Works by Joseph Bologne and Domenico Cimarosa are given world recording premieres.

Mariño’s voice has been described by Opera as “quite simply the most extravagantly talented male soprano I have yet heard.” Despite being bullied as a teen for his high speaking voice, Mariño decided to forego surgery to lower his larynx and deepen his voice, going on to pursue a career in singing. He studied at the Conservatore de Paris and was mentored by Barbara Bonney in Salzburg. Winning the Interpretation Award in the International Singing Competition with Opéra de Marseille and the audience prize in the Neue Stimmen Competition launched his career. Shortly after, Mariño made his stage debut at the Handel Festival in Halle and was nominated by the magazine OpernWelt as the “Best Revelation Artist.”




  • David Coco says:

    Michael Aspinall released a Decca disc years ago

  • John Chunch says:

    For sure this will bring out the Trumpers….

  • Althea T-H says:

    I have just watched this excellent video of Samuel:

    • John Borstlap says:

      Yes… a fantastic singer, beautiful voice, great musicality.

      • Mouse says:

        It is interesting that probably nobody seem to realize that the singer does not have a naturally high voice since his larynx is normally developed in its proportions. He only sang over the voice break and did not learn to speak in the baritone range, remaining in the falsetto voice. During speech therapy, you learn to get used to the unknown, dark side of your voice. You unintentionally use the baritone voice in such cases, for example when you have to scream out of necessity, e.g. when a child walks into the street on the opposite side of the street and you want to call out to him. In short, no miracle, just a lack of logopedic correction and advice.

  • John Borstlap says:

    But this has nothing to do with gender wars. Male sopranos are around for quite some time in the early music world, and fortunately so, because the original roles for castrati can now be sung without embarrassing physical interventions.

    The voice type is a variation of nature, and the variations have also variations. Some singers have tenor or baritone speaking voices but can easily slip into a high range, thus having a wide range available.

    Since opera is anyway make-believe and symbolical, not realistic, Hosenrollen and gender fluidity is normal on stage. The point is, to convey a given role in a credible way, in all its stylizations. When the character of the role is changed to serve current social justice concerns, that is a different matter altogether.

    • soavemusica says:

      “But this has nothing to do with gender wars.”

      Hence the high heels & lipstick.

      Where`s the bearded lady bass?

      • John Borstlap says:

        That’s a matter of taste and of work place rules. For instance, I’m not allowed to wear my high heels here, because of the marble around, and my favorite lipstick is forbidden because of the plight in the kitchen to get it off the tea cups. We all have to make sacrifices sometimes!


  • James Weiss says:

    Enough already with this insanity.

  • Mouse says:

    “A soprano used to be a person born female”
    Looking back in history, actually, the female soprano is a rather ‘modern’ achivement. But who cares…

    • 1714NicJom says:

      Yes, Mouse!
      even Mr. Lebrecht must have known about males singing soprano parts/roles for at least a few hundred years, but that wouldn’t get the good ol‘ anti-woke outrage going, so…..

  • The View from America says:

    Forget the voice — where can we get those shoes?!

  • M H says:

    This article reeks of transphobia. Sit down Norman.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “You read that right. A soprano used to be a person born female. No longer.”
    Norman – your prejudices are showing.

  • Natalia says:

    You realize some of these roles and arias were written for castrati men to sing right? Female sopranos have sung this only because finding a guy with a high enough voice is nigh impossible. It should be welcomed, at least from a perspective of being true to the composer’s initial intent.